Get to Know the Gardens of Floriana this Autumn
As the leaves turn to fiery shades of red and gold, and the air carries the crisp promise of autumn, there’s no better time to embark on a botanical adventure across the stunning gardens of Floriana. Nestled just a stone’s throw from the bustling capital city of Valletta, this picturesque town has a history as rich and vibrant as its foliage. Join us as we delve into the gardens of Floriana, a treasure trove of natural and historical wonders.
The story of Floriana’s gardens began in 1636 when the brilliant Italian architect Pietro Paolo Floriani designed the formidable Floriana Lines, an outer defence for Valletta. Over the years, these fortifications morphed into a thriving suburb under the stewardship of Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, who officially dubbed it Borgo Vilhena. Yet, the name “Floriana” had already taken root among the locals.
Today, Floriana’s captivating cultural heritage is no secret. While Valletta often hogs the limelight, Floriana has a wealth of secrets to unveil to its curious visitors, boasting no less than fifteen exquisite gardens. One look at the town’s map will reveal a pleasant surprise: nearly half of Floriana’s land is adorned with lush greenery, earning it the well-deserved title of one of Malta’s greenest localities.
Sa Maison Garden: : Where History Blooms
Begin your journey at Sa Maison Garden, an oasis located along the road from Floriana to Pieta’. The garden, sprawling across five levels, was generously donated to the War Department by Lady Julia Lockwood in 1856, providing a haven for soldiers and their families stationed at Floriana Barracks.
Wander through this natural sanctuary, and you’ll discover a treasure trove of history etched into the very heart of the garden. Graffiti and regimental badges, some hewn directly into the rock face and others meticulously carved from stone blocks, serve as enduring testaments to the soldiers who once called this place home. While time and souvenir hunters have claimed some of these badges, a few still stand proudly.
Among these historical relics, an awe-inspiring miniature Castle of Gibraltar stands, erected by the 2nd Battalion of The Essex Regiment in 1889. Ascend to the garden’s highest terrace to find a beautifully restored ‘Gardjola,’ a Knights’ lookout post. From here, take in the incredible panorama of Marsamxett Harbour, a vista of creeks and yacht marinas that will leave you spellbound.
Argotti Botanic Gardens: A Botanical Eden
For an enchanting experience, venture into the Argotti Botanic Gardens, undoubtedly one of Floriana’s most beautiful treasures. Named after Bailiff Ignatius de Argote et Guzman, a Spanish knight who once privately owned this haven in the 18th century, this garden boasts over a century of rich history.
Once the site of an impressive greenhouse, the Argotti Botanic Gardens have seen their share of challenges, including the dismantling of the greenhouse in 1931 and extensive bomb damage during World War Two. Nevertheless, this botanical paradise has been lovingly restored in recent years, offering two distinct sections.
In the public area, you’ll find rare trees, vibrant plants, lush flower beds, and cosy shaded benches inviting relaxation. The private section continues to house a dedicated botanical collection used by the University of Malta for educational purposes. Explore further, and you’ll stumble upon a quaint nymphaeum adorned with coloured stones, corals, and sea shells, once part of Bailiff Argote’s residence and now transformed into an exhibition hall dedicated to gardening and plant science.
St Philip's Garden: A hidden Gem
St Philip’s Garden is a hidden area just below the Argotti Gardens, named after the bastion it proudly perches upon. Originally a private garden for Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris, this historical gem invites you to step back in time.
A concealed entrance beckons you to explore this captivating garden, where a ramp leads you down to the lower part, complete with an arch housing the remnants of a mechanically operated door. But the true delight lies in the upper section, reached via a steep flight of steps. Here, a mesmerising ornate fountain takes centre stage, dating back to 1615, a symbol of the completion of an aqueduct system in Valletta. Moved from the city’s main square, it now graces this serene corner of Floriana.
The remainder of the garden features wide, paved pathways lined with countless citrus and cypress trees and ornamental plants that paint a vibrant tableau. Gaze from the far end, and you’ll be treated to a stunning view of the historic Portes des Bombes. This magnificent Baroque entrance once beckoned visitors into Floriana’s fortifications.
So, as nature unveils its true colours this autumn, let the gardens of Floriana be your canvas for an adventure that blends history, culture, and natural beauty. Each garden is a chapter in the town’s vibrant story, ready to be explored and cherished.